Aftershock, living liberation, and a daily dose of yoga

When I left my husband several years ago, I moved into what I have described as a kind of stormy period. It was dark and messy with many waves of grief and tears. I told myself that I needed to move through that to get through the layers of external pressures and expectation to get to the heart of who I was and who I wanted to be.

At the time, I had the sense that if I did not enter that storm, I would be lost altogether. In hindsight, I wonder if I had been living in something akin to a long-term kind of storm only different.

This morning, I thought of it as closer to living along a fault line. There were rumblings beneath the surface. Sometimes, I could hear them and other times they were silent. But there was something deep inside of me that was building in tension for a long time before the seismic episode, which happened during a particularly dark winter in Alaska.

The storm I experienced may simply have been a result of the earthquake; a tsunami, if you will.

What I realized this morning was that the storm may be over, along with the earthquake that set it in motion; however, I am still experiencing aftershocks years later.

What I had imagined was a one-time deal is something I continue to work on—the journey to get to the heart of who I am and what I need and want to maintain a healthy existence.

Having moved through the initial quake and storm, the continued work comes more readily than it did before, but it is work nonetheless.

I have also come to realize that while the repercussions from the storm were perhaps more intense—with regard to my interactions with the people in my personal and professional life and my own self—they are not without a bit of shaking up with the people in my life today.

One great difference—since I seem to be writing in metaphor—is that I have rebuilt the foundation that holds me up. This new foundation is far more table under seismic pressure than the previous one, which was far more shoddy in its construction. So, while I feel some instability and some trepidation when the aftershock passes through, I also have more confidence that I will survive.

My work seems to happen when I am ready. It can be quite uncomfortable, but it also helps me feel alive when I am in it. It is difficult to ignore pain when you feel it; it can become the focal point that draws all of your energy. It is visceral and immediate. When it is gone, it is next to impossible to recall just how intensely acute it felt.

Memory is funny like that. I do not consider myself a glutton for pain, but I do find that I continue to intentionally immerse myself in experiences that will draw out the most genuine version of self that exists.

This current round of work has been inspired by yoga intensive studies. I am an all or nothing kind of person, so rather than taking a yoga class I dove right into a teacher training. If I am going to do the work, I want to really do it.

That is my choice, and it is not without consequence. I left a job and a business venture in its wake, and it is far from over.

But one reason I continue to work is that I have learned that I am not happy when I am only living up to part of my potential. The potential I see for myself changes with time and wisdom.

I realize now that I have potential to move in many different directions and to hone many different skills. I think I have known this for a long time, but it is only now that I am connecting the dots from different periods of my life.

For instance, I played classical piano for 13 years and studied with the artist in residence at my undergraduate school through my first year.

I realized at the end of that year that I did not want to limit myself to a life where I practiced piano for 12 hours a day and endured harsh critique for my efforts. I wanted to learn French and travel. I wanted to study history and other subjects as well. I wanted a broader spectrum of perspective and experience in my life.

So I stopped playing piano.

I realized recently that the form of songwriting I was pursuing into a new business venture had become reminiscent of classical piano. I was feeling limited and confined when songwriting had been from the start a realm for creativity, healing, and spaciousness.

I also realized that I wanted to be more than a songwriter alone. I want the space in my life to be a yogi, a life partner, a friend, a writer, and whatever else may unfold.

So I have moved on from confinement in order to allow songwriting to reveal itself in a more organic way and let all other possible parts of my self materialize.

These are choices I am making, and I know they do not sit well with everyone in my life. But I know enough about my self to appreciate that they embody the right path for me to take.

I know it is right because it is honest and I am honestly listening to my own voice.

Before I turned off the light last night, I read these words, which have inspired this piece:

Yoga traditions have come to place a great value on development. This tradition sees the self as a “seed” with unlimited potential—a river of energy, intelligence, and consciousness. They [yogis] believed that unless you are creating the right conditions for the sprouting of this auspicious and fulsome seed—If you’re not living fully—you will be in some fashion depressed. (Stephen Cope in Amy Weintraub, 2004, p. xiii)

I have known this depression. Through years of practice and my most recent immersion into the tradition of yoga, I am beginning to understand the root of my unease and coming to believe that I have the power to transcend it.

“Emily Dickinson wrote poetry in order to live. For her, art was medicine—and taking a daily dose was literally a life-or-death affair (p. xii).”

I write, I practice yoga, I love and I listen for these same reasons. I know not yet what else will follow, but I want to recognize it when it reveals itself.

I intend to embody the yoga tradition of “jivan mukti—the ‘soul awake in this life.’ Literally ‘living liberation’ (p. xiii).”

As my yoga teacher told us yesterday:

“Do as much as you can, and do it well. This is the definition of practice.”

This is my practice in this moment, and it is helping me stand with greater confidence and less fear while the aftershocks pass through me.

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